• L. Darryl Armstrong

Starbucks is Getting Serious Again About Customer Service

Starbucks nationwide to close for emergency re-training Feb. 26

Sarah Gilbert hits the mark with her latest post. The issue of customer service is at the forefront of one of the nation’s biggest coffee bars. For a company that has been praised by Joseph A. Michelli in is book The Starkbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary the company is now hurting from its failure to follow-through and ensure exemplary training of all its employees. Two weeks ago I had my first unacceptable customer experience at a Starbucks near Tullahoma, Tenn. Sure enough the youngsters there were more interested in listening to their music than fixing a decent espresso. In fact, it was the worst cup of coffee I had had in a long time! Maybe the Feb. 26 shutdown for re-training will turn the company around. If not, like so many companies we may have to give them our “Stinking Fish Award” and that would truly be sad for a company we once thought set the standards for exceptional customer service.

Posted Feb 13th 2008 7:46PM by Sarah Gilbert Filed under: Starbucks (SBUX), Employees


Howard Schultz is here to change all that: by shutting down Every Last Storenationwide for three hours on Tuesday, February 26. Starting at 5:30 p.m., baristas in the coffee giant’s 7,100 stores will learn how to do things better. They’ll learn how to make a perfect shot, how to steam milk, and (if we have anything to say about it) how not to burn coffee, and how to wipe the milk steamer before switching from dairy to soy milk. (Vegans everywhere will say thank you.)

While it’s doubtful that three hours of training will reverse years of gathering mediocrity, it’s certainly a symbol of a company that cares about quality. If Howard is serious about this change stuff (and it’s obvious that he is), he’ll consider switching back to manual latte machines, at least in some stores located in serious coffee markets (like certain neighborhoods in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco). Speed and convenience is no price to pay for really good coffee. Some customers will agree; others will probably mutter swearwords under their breath as they pull up to their local Starbucks only to find it Closed For Training in a couple of weeks. Which customer are you?

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